Month: June 2011

There were villages in the land thenThere were villages in the land then

“Duty, as well as inclination, urges the Lay Preacher to sermonize, while others slumber. To read numerous volumes in the morning, and to observe various characters at noon, will leave but little time, except the night, to digest the one or speculate upon the other. The night, therefore, is often dedicated to composition, and while the light of the pale planets discovers at his desk the Preacher, more wan than they, he may be heard repeating emphatically with Dr. Young, ‘Darkness has much Divinity for me.’  He is then alone, he is then at peace. No companions near, but the silent volumes on his shelf, no noise abroad, but the click of the village clock, or the bark of the village dog. The Deacon has then smoked his sixth, and last pipe, and asks not a question more, concerning Josephus, or the Church. Stillness aids study, and the sermon proceeds.” — Joseph Dennie, The Lay Preacher (1796)

Riddle me theseRiddle me these

“Why do classical economists believe that free trade is good for everyone?  Why does the amount of gold kept in the treasury not make much difference to a country’s wealth?  Why don’t better machines for making pins eliminate jobs for good, instead of making more jobs of another kind?  Why, for that matter, does it not matter whether we’re productive in farming or manufacturing so long as we’re productive?  What does productivity even mean?” — Adam Gopnik, “Market Man”

It’s a zoo out thereIt’s a zoo out there

“To better imagine zoo life, you might picture yourself living with your brother (if you are male) or sister (if you are female) in a department store’s window display that looks like a luxuriously furnished home.  Satin drapes shroud the French doors, white woolen upholstery encases the armchairs and the sofa, and a thick silk Oriental carpet covers the parquet floor.  But the doors lead nowhere, the books on the shelves are fake, the TV doesn’t work, the radio has no innards, and the only magazine, a copy of House Beautiful on the coffee table, is dated 1980.  Anyway, you have read it so often you now know it by heart.  Long ago you and your sibling have resolved all your differences.  You have little to say to one another and you no longer think of escape.  You have forgotten your freedom and have accepted your fate.  The building is your prison, and both of you realize that you will never leave it alive.  To forget the boredom and the crowds of people going freely wherever they please, who gather each day outside the glass window, oohing and aahing at the luxury that surrounds you, you and your sibling lie down behind the sofa, where you escape into dreams.  You don’t wake up if you can help it, not even when people in the crowd notice your feet poking out beyond the sofa and bang on the glass to rouse you.  You dream of the night, which you spend with three or four other prisoners shackled to the chairs in the employees’ lounge.  At least you and your fellows can talk all night without wild-looking faces staring at you.” — Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Tribe of Tiger

Make it maybe not so newMake it maybe not so new

“Of all the criticisms that have been passed upon the Declaration of Independence, the least to the point is that it is not original. The material was at hand, the argument had been elaborated, the conclusions had been drawn. For originality there was as little opportunity as there was need. What was required now was a concise summing up of the whole matter, full enough to give a clear impression of completeness, vigorous and bold enough to serve as a national manifesto, and polished, dignified, and incisive enough to catch the ear, to linger in the memory, and to bear endless repetition.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XV, Ch. 8

East is eastEast is east

“King Dasaratha addressing his dearest wives said ‘I intend to perform a sacrifice in order to obtain sons. Therefore you also commence religious discipline.’ After listening to these excessively charming words, their lotus-like countenances endowed with brightness were resplendent like lotuses uncovered by ice.” — Valmiki Ramayana, Balakanda Sarga 8

the short of itthe short of it

There was a time when I was writing everything in lower case.  Abandoning caps changed the way the words flowed together in a piece.  Every once in a while I still write a lower-case piece, but it’s mostly something I did in the mid-90s.

Another thing I did in the mid-90s and still sometimes do is write very short pieces.  Abandoning caps works better in shorter pieces, since total lower case is not just a little hard on the eyes, it’s also a little more challenging to the mind.  Have to be careful with all that.

But going deep campo for lower case wasn’t the principal reason I wrote short pieces.  I had it in mind to see how short I could get a story to go and still have a full and symmetrical piece.  It seemed about 350 words was the bottom limit.  Pieces also seemed to develop their own internal necessity of length, with around 450 words and 675 words being approximate “natural” lengths for my work.

My first published piece of fiction was in all lower case, and this week it’s the story I’m posting: “eleanor in uncertain way, pulling.”  It was published in NuCity in July of 1995.  (NuCity later became The Weekly Alibi and continued to publish my stuff from time to time.)

Mutatis mutandisMutatis mutandis

“No history of the American Revolution, or of the political literature to which it gave birth, would be complete without consideration of the loyalists. That independence was in fact the work of a minority, and that the methods by which the loyal majority was overawed and, in part, expelled were as high-handed and cruel as they were active and vigorous, must be freely conceded. Weighty as was the colonial argument, force and violence were freely employed to give effect to it.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XV, Ch. 8

ClubbableClubbable

“A few years ago, a group of economists looked at more than a hundred Fortune 500 firms, trying to figure out what predicted how much money the C.E.O. made.  Compensation, it turned out, was only weakly related to the size and profitability of the company.  What really mattered was how much money the members of the compensation committee of the board of directors made in their jobs.  Pay is not determined vertically, in other words, according to the characteristics of the organization an executive works for; it is determined horizontally, according to the characteristics of the executive’s peers.  They decide, among themselves, what the right amount is.  This is not a market.” — Malcolm Gladwell, “Talent Grab”

Kindling was different then, but pickles were the sameKindling was different then, but pickles were the same

“Advertisements of merchandise in all the colonies throw a good deal of light on the customs of the time, and, incidentally, also on the popular taste in reading. We find that Peter Turner has ‘Superfine Scarlet Cloth, Hat Linings, Tatlers, Spectators, and Barclay’s Apology’; that Peter Harry imports ‘Head Flowers in Boxes, Laces and Edgings, Psalm-books, Play-books, the Guardians in 2 vol., Women’s Short Cloaks, Men’s Scarlet Great Coats’ and other apparel. The ship Samuel, from London, brings over ‘sundry goods, particularly a very choice collection of printed Books, Pictures, Maps and Pickles, to be Sold very reasonable by Robert Pringle.'” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XV, Ch. 7

Plato’s ghostPlato’s ghost

“An old-time classification of the human faculties will serve to explain the development of American thought in the eighteenth century, a development which led to the overthrow of high Calvinism. As there were three divisions of the human mind—intellect, sensibility, and will, so were there three divisions among the enemies of orthodoxy. Those who followed the intellect were the rationalists, or deists. Those who followed sensibility were the “hot” men, or enthusiasts. Those who followed the will were the ethical reformers, who emphasized the conscious cultivation of morality rather than a divinely wrought change in man’s nature.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XV, Ch. 5